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Additive effects of marine protected areas and land-use on inter- and intraspecific trait variability in tropical seagrass assemblages
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3973-1703
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Marine ecosystems are under increasing human pressure and therefore in need of effective management. Marine protected areas (MPAs) can reduce effects of local disturbances (e.g. fishing), but their ability to buffer stressors originating outside MPA borders (e.g. runoff) is more unclear. Moreover, while MPAs are well-known to affect species composition, we know much less about their effects on organisms’ traits (physiological, morphological, and/or behavioural characteristics), which in turn dictate how organisms respond to stressors and influence ecosystem processes and services. Here, we conducted a field survey in southern Kenya to assess the single and joint (interactive) effects of MPAs and land-use on species and trait composition of seagrass assemblages; a key group of habitat-forming plants in shallow coastal areas. We measured five morphological traits on multispecies seagrass assemblages (leaf length and width, number of leaves per shoot, and above- and below-ground biomass) within three types of sites: government-managed MPAs, community-managed MPAs, and unprotected areas. Using single- and multi-trait statistical analyses, we found that both MPAs and land-use influence seagrass species and trait composition. Changes in community-level traits were mostly explained by species turnover. However, management and land-use also had a direct influence on trait composition, with MPAs promoting wider leaves and higher above-ground biomass, while land-use mostly influenced seagrass leaf length and below-ground biomass. Moreover, even though there was an interactive effect of management and land-use, the largest and oldest MPAs did not seem to buffer effects of intense land-use. In conclusion, it appears that MPAs influence seagrass assemblages by reducing local disturbances, but do not buffer spatially distant land-use effects. Consequently, to sustain seagrass ecosystems and the important services they support, there is a need for a more integrated coastal zone management that regulates resource use and human impacts in both the marine and the terrestrial parts of tropical coastal zones.

National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Marine Ecology
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-154962OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-154962DiVA, id: diva2:1196071
Available from: 2018-04-09 Created: 2018-04-09 Last updated: 2018-04-10Bibliographically approved
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Chirico, Angelica A. D.Alonso Aller, ElisaEklöf, Johan S.
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